Boris Johnson has used his New Year’s message to claim that the UK finds itself in an “incomparably better” position than this time last year when it comes to coronavirus.
In a message that will be posted on social media on Friday, the prime minister will say the country has met its target of offering all adults the chance to get a COVID-19 booster jab by the end of the year.
Seven in 10 eligible adults in England have now received their boosters, Mr Johnson will confirm, with an extra eight million jabs administered since the target was brought forward on 12 December.
“Whatever the challenges that fate continues to throw in our way and whatever the anxieties we may have about the weeks and months ahead, particularly about Omicron and the growing numbers in hospitals, we can say one thing with certainty, our position this 31 December is incomparably better than last year,” the PM will say.
Mr Johnson will also hail the UK’s economic performance, saying that the “overriding reason” why the UK has been able to “maintain the most open economy and society of any major European economy” is due to its vaccine rollout.
“The British people have responded heroically, voluntarily, and in almost incredible numbers to the call to get vaccinated,” the PM will declare.
“And as I speak tonight on New Year’s Eve, we’ve met our target, we’ve doubled the speed of the booster roll out.
“And it’s precisely because of that huge national effort that we can celebrate tonight at all.”
But, with the continuing spread of the Omicron variant, he urges people to be careful with how they celebrate the dawn of 2022,
Mr Johnson, who has so far declined to introduce further restrictions to tackle the variant, will say: “Though I must of course urge everyone to be cautious and to take a test if you are going out and to remember the importance of ventilation.
“Follow the rules if you are in Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland.
“And I want to speak directly to all those who have yet to get fully vaccinated.
“The people who think the disease can’t hurt them, look at the people going into hospital now, that could be you.
“Look at the intensive care units and the miserable, needless suffering of those who did not get their booster, that could be you.
“So, make it your New Year’s resolution, far easier than losing weight or keeping a diary, find a walk-in centre or make an online appointment.”
‘The best still lies ahead’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, meanwhile, has used his New Year’s message to say he will use 2022 to set out his vision for building a “new Britain” that “works for everyone”.
Sir Keir said Britain needs leadership to ensure the sacrifices made during the coronavirus pandemic are not in vain.
“I believe the best still lies ahead for Britain,” Sir Keir said.
“That – if we make the right choices – together we can seize the future and make it work for every family in every part of Britain.
“That must be the true legacy of all the sacrifices and pain of the past two years of the pandemic.”
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said in his message that he hoped 2022 will be “the year we will finally beat COVID”.
“Through all the ups and downs, the thing that has shone through the most for me is the remarkable courage, resilience and compassion of the British people,” Sir Ed said.
“Everywhere I go, everyone I meet – you make me proud to be British, and optimistic for our future.”
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford said there will be “better and brighter times ahead”.
He urged people to “pull together” and put getting a booster jab “at the top of the list” of their New Year’s resolutions.